By TOM GODFEY
A landmark human rights challenge against Canada’s “No Fly” list by a Muslim man who claims he was barred six times from boarding Air Canada flights is moving ahead.
Air Canada has been ordered by a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to hand over a list of complaints from customers alleging discrimination based on race or ethnic background dating back seven years.
The airline was also asked by Tribunal Member David Thomas to disclose what training, if any, its front-line workers were provided with in dealing with racial issues.
The challenge was filed by Mohamed Yaffa to the Canadian Human Rights Commission against the carrier after Yaffa alleged he was selected for questioning on six different occasions as he was boarding Air Canada flights from March to June 2010.
Yaffa, who is a Canadian citizen originally from Sierra Leone, works as a Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator for the Nova Scotia Health Care System.
The case has garnered interest from many innocent travellers who also claim to have been “subjected to interrogation”, or not being allowed on flights, after their names were compared against those on a U.S.-compiled “No Fly List” of known or suspected terrorists.
Thomas, in a ruling last week, said Yaffa will have to provide the Human Resources file from his workplace dating back from 2007 to 2013, including his vacation and sick days.
Yaffa also has to produce a list of names and addresses of all health care professionals he has seen for treatment for depression, anxiety or insomnia since 2008.
He has to provide medical records as required by the Tribunal in what may be a lengthy legal challenge.
The airline was ordered to disclose complaints made against it, from 2007 to present, alleging discrimination “based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour or religion”.
Air Canada officials were asked to provide resolutions of the complaints that were filed.
The names of those who filed the complaints and any personal information will be redacted (blacked-out).
The airline was asked to outline the training provided to airport staff on how to deal with handling complaints from passengers who require enhanced security screening or those barred from flying due to security concerns.
The carrier was queried on what “human rights or cultural sensitivity” training was provided to frontline airport workers, such as the ones who dealt with Yaffa and “if it does provide such training, to disclose those training materials”.
Yaffa, in court filings, said he is outraged by being singled out from other passengers when boarding domestic or international flights. He told the Tribunal the carrier subjected him to “enhanced security screening, because of his race, national or ethnic origin, colour and religion”.
Yaffa, in his complaint, alleged to have suffered damages due to “depression, anxiety, insomnia and diminished self-esteem”, for which he is seeking compensation.
“I am the first one in line but always the last one on the plane,” Yaffa told Share then. “Air Canada will not tell me why they are doing this, but I am always the last one allowed on.”
The airline, in material presented to the Tribunal, said when a passenger’s name is a close match to any name on the “No-Fly List or Selectee List”, an automatic prompt will appear on the agent’s screen stating that the passenger is “Deemed High Profile”.
The agent is then required to contact a division within Air Canada’s Corporate Security Department called the Operation Security Centre, whose officials will investigate and determine if the traveller can board.